Dupont Dog Owner Tries to Move On After Loss
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Cars honked, sirens sounded and couples strolled in the darkness of Dupont Circle as Joe, a homeless Texan with a bushy beard and a knee-length trench coat, lamented his fate and the death of Precious.
"This isn't about me, it's about her. I did not want this," said Joe, 49, who agreed to be interviewed only if his full name was not used. "I wanted to be a private personality. I'm going through an adjustment. My life has changed."
It has been six weeks since a U.S. Park Police officer shot and killed Joe's beloved dog in Dupont Circle, triggering an outcry from dog lovers, an outpouring of concern for Joe and an investigation by the Interior Department, which oversees the Park Police.
Precious, a white short-haired pit bull, was shot in the core of the trendy neighborhood on a day that already had the markings of a sad one. It was Sept. 11, the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Police and some witnesses said the dog charged at the officer, brandishing its teeth, after the officer yelled for Joe to put Precious on a leash. A preliminary investigation by the Park Police concluded that the officer used justifiable force, and the Washington Humane Society "found no evidence of wrongdoing."
Joe and others disagreed. One witness questioned whether the dog ran directly at the officer. The Humane Society of the United States, which is independent of the Washington group, initially said that "lethal force was completely unnecessary," but later tempered those remarks, saying that it wanted more information before reaching a conclusion.
In a town where homicides often get fleeting mention and politicians dominate the headlines, the shooting of Precious brought an unusual outpouring of concern and put Joe in an unfamiliar position: center stage.
"There was an outpouring of sympathy, of empathy," said Joe, who received donations from strangers and accepted the offer of the Heavenly Days Animal Crematory in Rockville to take care of the dog's remains.
"I am just in awe," he said. "I've been loved. I have never experienced such an outpouring of support."
In discussing his life, Joe skimps on details. When he was a child, he said, his family moved frequently around Texas.
Somewhere along the line, according to a 1991 newspaper account, he lived in Florida, got married and had two children, a boy and a girl. He later divorced.
He worked for a locksmith, he worked for a septic tank company, and he ended up on a spiritual path.